Should we pay £3,000 for every new cyclist encouraged to ride a bike in Bristol?
TAXPAYERS paid almost £3,000 for every new cyclist encouraged to regularly ride a bike as a result of Bristol's Cycling City project.
The three-year project, which cost £22.8 million, failed to hit its target of doubling the number of regular cyclists in the city.
The number of frequent cyclists in the city has increased by a third – growing from 25,000 to 33,000 – since the project began in 2008. Despite falling short of reaching its target, Bristol City Council has revealed it intends to bid for further funding for the project next month.
The move has been criticised by city councillor Peter Abraham, who says he predicted the project would fail from the outset.
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The Conservative, who represents Stoke Bishop, said: "This news clearly shows that the wheels have finally come off Cycling City's bandwagon.
"It has been a colossal failure even on its own terms – the aim of doubling those who travel by bike.
"I hate to say I told you so but this result is something I have been predicting for a very long time. Sadly, it has proven to be a huge waste of millions of pounds."
Mr Abraham believes the money splashed out on the Cycling City project would have been better-spent on improving public transport.
Bristol was named the country's first Cycling City three years ago, after seeing off competition from 11 other towns and cities for an £11.4 million government grant.
The money was matched by the city council and South Gloucestershire Council and used to build new cycle routes, stands and signs, and offer cycling training and advice on routes.
About two-thirds of the £22.8 million was spent on cycling infrastructure, such as 13 miles of off-road cycle tracks including the Festival Way to Ashton Court and a route from the centre to Bristol's northern fringe through St Werburgh's and Lockleaze. The remainder went towards schemes geared to changing people's attitudes to cycling such as training in schools and workplaces.
Jon Rogers, the councillor responsible for the Cycling City project, said the figure of 33,000 was taken from a count made in winter 2009/10 and that another count would be conducted when the project finishes later this year.
He said the project has seen the number of children cycling to school double and the number of cyclists using one cycle route in St Werburgh's more than double.
Lib Dem Mr Rogers, who represents Ashley ward, said: "Some commentators seem to be concentrating on the Cycling City's target to double the number of cyclists in Bristol. This is a challenging target and I am sure it will be delivered in due course. Even last year's figures showed a magnificent 33 per cent increase in people cycling, and doubling on some routes.
"Meanwhile, celebrate the wonderful progress that is being made to deliver safer, healthier, more sustainable travel around our city."
Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, which paid £11.4 million towards the project, said: "We are delighted with Bristol and South Gloucestershire's achievements. The project has made astonishing progress."